Australia at Under 21 World Cup
Taichung, Chinese Taipei
Round One Game One: Deflating Aussie loss in topsy-turvy World Cup opener
7 November 2014
JAPAN 9 defeated AUSTRALIA 7
Facing world powerhouse Japan in its first-up Under 21 World Cup clash, Australia conceded five in the first before a remarkable recovery that saw the side play inspired baseball – as the better side for seven innings - before faltering in the top of last and incurring a tough 7-9 loss.
Entering the tournament in a confident frame of mind – and with great resolve – Australia launched a stunning assault in an imperious fourth innings while its defence stayed strong against an opponent that would have entered the game as a clear-cut favourite.
While it was a heart-breaking loss for the Aussie camp, the sun will come up tomorrow and the Aussies will be keen to atone when they match up against the Netherlands for the second of their Round Robin games.
It was a shaky start for the Australians, who were under the pump in the first, when five hits conspired with a throwing error to glean five for a Japanese side that was loaded with some of the very best young players from Nippon Professional Baseball.
Settling into his work, Aaron Sookee retired eight of nine hitters he faced from the first through the third innings as DH Guy Edmonds sparked his side with a second innings triple that was converted to Australia’s first run.
After Sookee extricated himself from a two-out bases loaded jam in the top of the fourth, Australia launched an offensive assault that chased Masaru Nakamura from the hill after a HPB, a wild pitch and some clean hitting by Jacob Younis, Ben Lodge, Edmonds, Ryan Dale and Ben Leslie propelled five across the plate for a 6-5 break.
A crucial out on a run-down play at home snuffed out a Japanese challenge in the fifth as Sookee handed the pill to Wilson Lee after 4.2 innings of work aided by some sparkling infield defence that gave his club a chance to stage a great comeback that put them on the brink of victory.
Complementing a low-nineties fastball with some wicked breaking stuff, Japanese reliever Yamaoka Taisuke – a nineteen year old who has drawn huge wraps at home and internationally – retired the first two Aussies in the bottom of the frame before Robbie Perkins drove in another for Australia with a single into rightfield.
Clawing a run back in the sixth and summoning Yokoyama Yuya from the pen with his challenging four-pitch mix, Japan stifled the Australian bats for eight strike outs in the later innings while itself still being unable to peg back the wafer-thin lead as Sam Holland and Sam Street each carded a scoreless innings from the hill.
Going to the seasoned Todd van Steensel to close out the game, the Australian camp was on decent terms with itself with a first-up weak ground ball out in the ninth, although the game was still to take another decisive turn as walks to Enomoto and Miyashi put runners at first and second. Having a great game with the stick, Hojo doubled over Ben Leslie's head in right field, with the tying run scoring from second. Takajo then singled to right to drive in the go ahead run and Azegami singled to left to make the score 9-7 Japan at the end of the top half.
Japan's Ryosuke Nomura slammed the door to give Japan a come from behind win over a young Australian team that fought its way back into the game and was the better side from the second through to the eighth innings. Australia paid dearly, though, for four defensive errors despite generating some scintillating defence – especially at the hot corner, where Zac Shepherd made a string of very tough plays.
Out-hitting Australia twelve to eight, Japan posted just two strikeouts to our seventeen for the game, a number of some concern that is a reflection on the quality of pitching that will inevitably be wheeled out at this world-level baseball event.
"Throwing up a five-spot was not the way we wanted to start that game," Australian Manager Tony Harris told Australian Baseball Alumni.
"Anything can happen in the ninth," Harris said. "It can be tough, and it was for us today. Giving up three runs - we definitely didn't expect that."
"The result was a bitter pill for us to swallow."
Australia will meet Netherlands in their second Round Robin game on Saturday 8 November, starting at 12.30 PM Chinese Taipei time (check your equivalent Australian time zone).
The full interview is posted HERE